You’re ready to retire in 2018. A long career is behind you, and you’re finally ready to enjoy your golden years after decades of hard work and saving.
But just because retirement is at your doorstep doesn’t mean you don’t still have a few important steps to take. Here are six things you need to do right now to start your 2018 retirement off on the right foot.
1. Calculate your retirement budget
Creating any sort of budget rarely sounds like fun, but when you’re ready to retire, it’s a necessity. Remember, that paycheck you’ve counted on for so long is disappearing. You need to make sure you have enough money coming in each month to support yourself.
First, calculate how much money you’ll have available each month. Include all sources of income, including Social Security benefits, money from the savings you’ve built up, royalties, rents, disability payments, and annuity payments. Then, calculate your fixed expenses that remain the same each month. These would include rent or mortgage payments, car payments, and insurance costs — everything from life and health, to homeowners and auto.
Create reasonable estimates for expenses that might fluctuate each month. This includes costs such as utility bills, the money you spend on groceries, transportation costs, and, always important, the estimated amount of dollars you’ll spend on entertainment, traveling, and eating out.
Once you have these figures, you’ll know if you have enough money to support the retirement lifestyle you want.
2. Make some tweaks
Maybe, after creating this budget, you discover that you don’t have enough incoming dollars to cover all your expenses. This means it’s time to make some changes. If money is tight, you might have to cut back on discretionary expenses like going out to dinner or the movies. You might not be able to take a road trip every month. You might have to put off that cruise.
If you need more dramatic savings, it might be time to consider putting your home on the market. If you sell it and downsize into a smaller residence — maybe a condo or apartment — you might be able to generate enough money, and save enough in monthly mortgage expenses, to afford a more luxurious retirement lifestyle.
You might also consider selling your car, if you’re still making payments on it, and purchasing a more affordable vehicle that might cost hundreds of dollars less each month. (See also: 6 Ways You Can Cut Costs Right Before You Retire)
3. Talk to your partner about your retirement hopes
You don’t want to hit retirement only to discover that you’re happy puttering around the house and reading while your partner is looking forward to traveling the country in an RV.
Partners need to talk about their retirement goals long before they leave the working world. If you haven’t done this yet, and you’re ready to retire in 2018, it’s time to have this conversation.
Retirement brings with it plenty of free time — maybe more than you expected. You might get tired of reading or fishing pretty quickly. It’s best to discuss how you’ll fill these extra hours with your partner or spouse before retirement hits. Doing so will increase the odds that both of you will enjoy a happy retirement together. (See also: 5 Money Conversations Couples Should Have Before Retirement)
4. Consider whether you still want to work
Many retirees take on part-time work after they leave their full-time jobs. Some do this for financial reasons, while others simply enjoy the act of going to work and staying productive.
Take a long look at yourself. If you enjoy the routine of going to work, and find working satisfying, taking a part-time job might be the right decision for you. Or maybe you’ll want to use your retirement years to set up a consulting business or pursue a dream job in the arts.
Just make sure to plan for this move. Share your goals with your partner, so that he or she isn’t blindsided when you announce that you’re going back to work. And if you’re retiring next year, take the time now to make the connections and prep your resume so that you can transition as smoothly as possible to your new job. (See also: 4 Creative Remote Jobs That Can Supplement Your Retirement Income)
5. Explore your community
Again, retirement comes with plenty of free time. If you don’t want to work, maybe you’ll want to volunteer to fill in those hours. Now is the time to explore volunteer opportunities in your community. That way, when you do retire, you’ll already have a plan for how you’ll occupy those long post-work days. (See also: How to Find Your New Identity After Retirement)
6. Get conservative with your investments
If you haven’t already, move your retirement savings out of stocks and into less volatile savings vehicles such as bonds. It’s true that bonds don’t have the same ceiling when it comes to big gains, but you don’t want a dip in the stock market six months before you retire to eat up a big chunk of your retirement savings. Instead, play it safe by moving your savings to retirement vehicles that aren’t as likely to hit a big dip.